Thursday, 28 August 2014

Identity and control

I enjoyed watching the program about LEAP on 27 August but really could not understand why a girl with pink hair was targeted when others had dyed hair and a teacher had many tattoos. it wasn't a huge issue but is one I feel strongly about and feel that is very important with children in difficult circumstances in particular. When I queried it in Twitter this was the response:

I have to agree every school needs rules and boundaries to protect children but do feel this rule is pointless. Rules that don't create a positive outcome can be dropped, its not hard to do that; you just stop having the rule. Given some schools do let teachers have tattoos they must feel there is no detrimental effect so why can't all? If some children can dye their hair black or blonde or burgundy why is there a problem with pink or green or red or a rainbow?  I can't see any harm in that.  I taught and marked a module last year where 1st year undergraduate students had to build a Google web site as part of their study. One was very pink because " projects who I am". Some girls clearly love being in pink, feel more comfortable, more themselves and with the imposition of uniform (another aspect I disagree with) all they have left is fingernails and hair to colour. What purpose is achieved; what disasters avoided; what gain for children and staff by limiting hair colour? I hated being in uniform as it made me look like someone who I was not and that was confusing and distracting. I struggle to map and recall faces so it was hard for me to know who was who. The rules should be designed to inspire children, to help them enjoy their time in school and provoke them to want to attend school. Denying the ability to be an individual, to project who they feel they are seems pointless. 

During my PGCE study I started to plait, then dreadlock, my already long hair, by the time I was working as a teacher I had multi-coloured dreadlocks with several wraps and more than a few seashells tied into it. They were tiny ones miniature scallops and cowries gathered from Gwenver my favourite surfing beach. I was not aware of anyone disproving, I felt it actually helped develop good relations with children as they found that interesting and so were interested in me. At that time it was popular for boys to have a long thin plait at the back of otherwise short hair, I don't recall any of the schools I worked in having a problem with that either. 

Why did I want to look like that? I didn't really think about it, it was just what I needed to be at the time. I was exploring being an artist at the time and maybe I was making myself into some sort of Art. The sea shells kept me in touch with the sea, I was surfing a lot back then often 7 days a week and 4-10 hours in the water was helping me cope with life, I felt awkward and clumsy out of the water, graceful and filled with power when in it. This photo of myself my daughter and my first son is the only one I have on my hard drive from then and was taken just before I dyed it. Unfortunately caught during a blink. 

My first marriage had turned into a nightmare, I was just about managing to stay alive, was largely reclusive as far as friends goes and perhaps hiding behind my hair helped me go out in public and have the confidence to be in a school. I know I felt very exposed having short hair a few years earlier, my long hair felt like protection. Whatever was going on in my mind the key was that I could function and even walk tall and proud at times. I was also under-eating to an extent that became dangerous although that was more to do with not realising how many calories I was burning in the sea and blaming hunger pains on gut infection picked up from the sea..or so I thought at the time. Given the mess some children's lives are in I have every sympathy with them wanting to project personality, when life is out of control your body is one thing you can control and that can lead to being able to survive tough times and even to have some self-confidence.

Thinking back to my own school days in the 60s/70s I had friends with large multi-coloured mohicans, shaved heads, Dr Martin boots, fluorescent socks, girls and boys with multi-coloured nails and eye make up that projected their affinity with Alice Cooper or Marc Bolan etc. I remember one boy coming in with an Aladdin Sane face make up on the last days of school. Why in the world do these things need to be restricted? Let children celebrate and project who they are, let them be the person they feel confident being and they might well respect your respect for their individuality. Out of mutual  respect comes many good things; strong relationships, children who feel good about them selves and will listen and behave well. 

A few honest words to that girl such as: "Wow! look at you that's so cool, good colour choice it really suites you." could well have filled her with positive emotions and that is worth way more than rejecting who she wants to be and risking loss of respect and resentment that can often be projected through disruptive behaviour as they know that arguing their case verbally and gently will just bring out the old "Rules is rules" line that really just says we have no idea why this rule is in place and I am not going to even think about whether its a sensible one or not because we need to control you and you need to accept that regardless of whether it makes sense. 

 Looking pretty in pink hair is way better than using an eating disorder or being disruptive to exert control.